Israel: Obama's Failure to Veto UN Resolution on Settlements Would Breach U.S. Commitment

Netanyahu demanded the U.S. veto a Security Council motion critical of West Bank and East Jerusalem settlements, set for vote on Thursday.

Barack Obama speaks to Benjamin Netanyahu during the burial ceremony of former Israeli President Shimon Peres in Jerusalem, Friday, Sept. 30, 2016
Ronen Zvulun/AP

>> UPDATE: UN Security Council Vote on Settlements Postponed After Israel Pressured Egypt

The United States would be breaching its long-standing commitment to Israel should it decides not to veto a UN Security Council draft resolution on settlements, a senior Israeli official said. 

The official added that Israel expects the U.S. to act in accordance with its long-term policy, unhindered by changes in administration, according to which negotiations must be carried out directly between Israel and the Palestinians themselves.  

Egypt presented the UN Security Council on Wednesday night with a draft resolution against Israeli settlements in the West Bank and East Jerusalem. The vote is set to take place at 10:00 P.M. Israel time. The draft resolution states that the settlements have "no legal validity" and that Israel must completely halt settlement construction. It also calls on the international community to clearly distinct between Israel proper and the settlements.

A decision not to veto the UN resolution would embody U.S. President Barack Obama's final attempt to "do something" against the settlements, the Israeli official said, noting that it would constitute the abandonment of traditional U.S. policy a moment before a new administration takes over.

According to the senior Israeli officials, the Americans have yet to decide how they will vote. The White House and the State Department did not respond on the matter. Netanyahu, meanwhile, tweeted that "The U.S. should veto the anti-Israel resolution at the UN Security Council on Thursday."

Israel's security cabinet will convene at 5 P.M. Thursday to discuss the resolution.  

France expected to back UN motion

The French ambassador to Israel said earlier on Thursday that the draft UN Security Council resolution against the settlements submitted by Egypt is balanced and matches France's position, and that she expects her country to support it.

In a briefing to diplomatic reporters, French Ambassador to Israel Helene Le Gal said the Egyptian draft resolution is more balanced than another version distributed to Security Council members two weeks ago by the Palestinians. The resolution, she said, does not talk about the settlements exclusively, but also speaks of the need to stop the violence and terrorism and to prevent all incitement from the Palestinian side.

“There is no decision yet. We voted for similar text before and I assume the direction will be to support the Egyptian resolution,” Le Gal told the reporters.

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Le Gal also said that it was Israel’s settlement policy, in particular the advancement of the outpost legalization bill, that pushed Egypt and the international community to promote an anti-settlement resolution in the Security Council. The statements by some Israeli ministers that Israel should launch a wave of settlement construction and take the two-state solution off the table also gave a push to the Security Council move, she added.

“A resolution in the Security Council has a lot of weight. If the resolution passes it will show both sides and especially Israel that the international community is very worried by the settlements and see them as an obstacle to peace. The tendency in Israel to say ‘the whole world is against us’ is wrong. We say all those things against the settlements because we are with Israel, not against it,” the ambassador said.

The draft resolution

The Egyptian move surprised Israel, the United States and a large part of the Security Council's members, a senior Israeli official noted. Officials at the Foreign Ministry and the Prime Minister's Office had expected that a draft resolution against the settlements would be presented to the Security Council by the time U.S. President Barack Obama leaves the White House on January 20. The Palestinians circulated a draft proposal some two weeks ago, as did New Zealand.

The Egyptian draft resolution is a little milder than the versions circulated by the Palestinians in the past two weeks. According to the text itself, the resolution:

■ "Reaffirms that the establishment by Israel of settlements in the Palestinian territory occupied since 1967, including East Jerusalem, has no legal validity and constitutes a flagrant violation under international law and a major obstacle to the achievement of the two-state solution."

■ "Reiterates its demand that Israel immediately and completely cease all settlement activities in the occupied Palestinian territory, including East Jerusalem."

Stresses that the cessation of all Israeli settlement activities is essential for salvaging the two-state solution, and calls for affirmative steps to be taken immediately to reverse the negative trends on the ground that are imperiling the two-state solution."

■ "Underlines that it will not recognize any changes to the 4 June 1967 lines, including with regard to Jerusalem, other than those agreed by the parties through negotiations."

■ "Calls upon all States, to distinguish, in their relevant dealings, between the territory of the State of Israel and the territories occupied since 1967."

■ "Calls for immediate steps to prevent all acts of violence against civilians, including acts of terror, as well as all acts of provocation and destruction, calls for accountability in this regard, and calls for compliance with obligations under international law for the strengthening of ongoing efforts to combat terrorism, including through existing security coordination, and to clearly condemn all acts of terrorism; and to refrain from provocative actions, incitement and inflammatory rhetoric."